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Free Blues Guitar Lessons - 12 Bar Blues Guitar

Apr 30, 2008
Join us as we take a look into some practical tips and advice about mastering blues guitar. We will be examining what the fundamentals of blues are as well as the importance of improvisation, and the benefits of practicing with guitar backing tracks.

Blues guitar is one of the most artistically expressive forms of guitar that exists today. Not many guitarists know this but the blues is the foundation for a variety of different genres that are extremely popular today, including rock, hard rock, metal, and even some hip hop music. There is a lot involved in completely masting blues guitar playing, and it takes a lot of time and dedication to be able to pull it off.

In order to be able to master blues guitar you have to know the fundamentals of blues music itself. Blues music is one of the only styles of music to actually have a scale named after it. Learning and mastering the blues scale is one of the first key steps to completely mastering blues guitar playing. The blues scale is used in more than blues music. There is a lot of rock music that uses this scale. So whether you plan on being a blues guitarist or not, this scale is very beneficial to learn and master.

So What Is The 12 Bar Blues?

The 12-bar blues progression is the main foundation and cornerstone of the vast majority of blues tunes out there. As such, to start playing blues, you will need to understand what a 12-bar blues progression is.

The basic concept of the 12-bar blues is the I-IV-V progression, where I, IV and V represent the chords or notes that you will be using. To this, you will undoubtedly have two questions, "what is I-IV-V," and how do I use it?"

What is I-IV-V? When you play a blues progression, you will only need to use 3 chords. The principle of I-IV-V tells you which chords to use, as follows: a slightly oversimplified approach, which happens to work for the keys of A,C,D,E and G, which is enough for right now (see page 4 of the lesson for other keys), is to simply count out the letters of the alphabet starting with the key you're playing in. The first, fourth and fifth letter you count represent the chords that you will be using in your blues progression.

For the key of A we count: A-b-c-D-E-f-g

Thus, for the key of A, we will be using A-D-E as our I-IV-V progression. Similarly if you count out starting with E, you will find that for the key of E we will use E-A-B as our I-IV-V.

Some of the music theory books refer to the I as the "tonic", the IV as the "subdominant", and the V as the "dominant". I won't use these terms in this lesson, but knowing that may help you understand what other people are talking about sometimes.

Chords and Progressions

Another key element to blues is to learn the chords and chord progressions that are commonly used in blues guitar. Learning these will help you to create your own blues progressions and melodies. It's important to remember that not all blues music is played at fast speeds. Some blues music is played slowly and soulfully. It's as if you can see inside of the guitarist's soul as he tells a story with his music. Accuracy is the foundation of playing solid, soul-bearing blues music, and not just raw speed.

An integral part of playing and mastering blues guitar playing is learning how to improvise. After you master the scales and chords, it's time to put them into practice. Improvising is where your creativeness and knowledge come together to create passionate blues music. There are a variety of different improvisation methods that you should practice along with learning your chords and scales.

One of the better ways to fully master blues guitar music is to practice with blues guitar backing tracks. These blues backing tracks can improve the productivity of your practice time immensely. It's like practicing with an entire professional blues band, which will help you develop your improvisation as you put to use your knowledge and solo over the backing tracks. Ensure that you are getting access to professionally recorded blues backing tracks such as those from 50Blues Studios. Do not settled for midi backing tracks. Using professional backing tracks will produce good, solid structure and timing as you learn to play along with other musicians, and learn to play over key changes. Properly using blues guitar backing tracks are the secret to success in mastering blues guitar.
About the Author
Zack R is the founder of 50 Blues Studios. If you are a blues musician, find out how blues guitar backing tracks will improve your blues guitar playing skills. Listen to the free blues backing tracks and start jamming right now.
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